Common Catalina 30 issues

Aug 14, 2017
Catalina 30 New London
Looking to buy a 76 or 81. Both seem in pretty nice shape. Just joined forum today. What is a Catalina smile. How do I determine if their is a keel or compression post/block issue? Where might I find more info on this specific vessel?
May 20, 2016
Catalina 36 MK1 94 Everett, WA
The smile is a separation of the keel from the hull at the forward edge.

For compression the head and vbirth doors are your biggest clue. Do the open easily, is the top of the door square or has someone trimmed it so it closes. Is the top gap even??

After all that if you like the boat get a professional survey to confirm

Aug 14, 2017
Catalina 30 New London
Thank you Les. If it has that smile, I take it that is a very expensive fix or not fixable? I can guess that the compression block issue would affect the bulkhead by the head. Have heard that the wooden mass support could be rotted as it touches the keel, is that the compression block issue. That would also be a difficult, expensive fix? Is it observable by looking in the bilge?


Mar 12, 2008
Both those boats are relatively pretty "old". At a minimum I would consider new rigging. I had a 1977 C30 that was dismasted last season under full sail (not pretty). Look for rust, check with a magnet, make sure nothing is magnetic, that would indicate cheap Stainless Steel. Also, does the boat have original sails? If so they are not going to last much longer.
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Jul 14, 2015
Catalina 30 Stillhouse Hollow Marina
Common issues. Not terribly expensive. Yes to all other questions.
Apr 8, 2010
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 28400 Portland OR
Having the keel try to divorce the hull is never a Good Thing. It is a structural relationship problem. :)
This is a known problem with some boats, and not just Catalina 30's.
As with most any problem with a fiberglass hull, it is totally fixable ($$$).
It just takes (as a friend once opined after doing major restoration of a boat), "time, money, and skill... you must have at least two of the three".

Drop the keel, rebuild the internal support structure, and reattach it. Plan B: fall in love with another boat.
It's a buyer's market out there, so do not be afraid to cast a wide net.
Jul 1, 2004
Catalina 30 Atlanta GA
If you can afford the Mark II Model (started 1987) you will find a more updated vessel (interior, wiring, traveler, wing keel, etc, etc). Plenty on the market. For information on the 30 go to: International Catalina 30 Association website. You can download just about everything on the 30 series, owners manual, specifications for each Model, sales brochures, upgrades, etc. Its a wonderful source for the 30 owner. Yes, compression post collapse, rusting non-stainless keel bolts, are just a few of the items you have to be aware of when buying an older Catalina 30. The wooden block under the compression which will rot over time has been replaced with an aluminum unit in the 1988 model and onward. The post will subside under the mast due to the rot and you will notice a subsidence in the deck at the mast base. You can use the head door jam as an indicator as well, but the removal and replacement of the post support in the bilge at the bulkhead is timely and costly because it requires removal of the mast and should be done in the yard. The survey will certainly reveal this needed repair as too the rusted keel bolts which leads to the leeching of rust thru the fairing material around the keel, thus revealing the infamous "catalina smile". This can be costly as well. The newer models (Mark II) use the stainless bolts.
Good luck
1988 Mark II